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Israel Facing Threat From 'Nuclear to Knives'

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz: 'Israel Is Facing Security Threats Ranging From Nuclear Weapons To Knives'

'Iran Is Central Threat, Low Probability Syria's President Assad Will Try To Deflect Public's Attention from Internal Turmoil By Opening Fire At Israel, Egypt Does Not Pose A Threat At This Stage'

IsraCast Assessment: New IDF Chief Of Staff Is Confident That His Forces Are Now Prepared To Meet A Wide Array of Security Threats Confronting The Jewish State

Hamas Terrorists in Gaza Strip

 Lt.Gen. Benny Gantz has evaluated a wide range of security threats to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee in his first presentation as IDF Chief of Staff. There is no question the former paratrooper commander will have to prepare the Israel Defense Forces for one of its most dangerous periods in the state's history. Gen. Gantz told the closed door committee: 'I am ready for this great challenge - in the IDF I will insist on professionalism and values on which there is no room for compromise.' After being briefed on the closed door session, Analyst David Essing says Gen. Gantz not only identified the threats but also outlined, where possible, his military preparations.

Benny Gantz

 'The threats range from Iran's development of nuclear weapons to knives' those being waved by Palestinian or pro-Palestinian rioters. Although the Arab world is dominated by states in the midst of domestic upheaval or about to enter such a maelstrom, Iran was still the central threat. But not only because of Iran's nuclear weapons program, but also due to Tehran's backing of radical Islamic movements with weapons and other logistic aid. The new Chief of Staff proceeded to identify instability and concerns throughout all Arab countries.

Egypt: 'At this stage, Egypt did not pose a threat and Israel has an interest in strengthening the peace with Cairo'. But it was also important to say the new new Egyptian regime was not as stable as that of Mubarak's, therefore Israel's 'level of securities had to be broader than in the past'. In this vein, Israel's new security fence along the Egyptian border would be completed by the end of the year and would block overland arms smuggling and infiltrators from Sinai. Since the start of the year, 3,114 infiltrators(mostly Africans seeking work in Israel) had crossed illegally into Israel, 150 were returned. Overall, Israel's military cooperation with Egypt continued to be good. Nonetheless, the Chief of Staff was worried by the security situation in Sinai.

Syria: 'Syrian President Bashar Assad has no idea how his country will look at the end of this week or the next!' This lack of uncertainty not only worried Assad but also Israel. IDF Intelligence estimated that 1,200 Syrian civilians have been killed in clashed with the Syrian security forces. A 'measure of Iranian involvement' has also been identified in the Syrian regime's crackdown against the demonstrators. The bottom line - Gen. Gantz said there was a low probability that Assad would try to deflect his internal chaos to Israel by opening fire on the Jewish state.

Hamas Terrorists in Gaza Strip

Gaza: There was absolutely no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the big flotilla due to sail from European ports in June was aimed primarily at smearing Israel. The cargoes could just as easily be offloaded at the nearby port of Al Arish in Egypt. In any case, the Israeli government had ordered the IDF to prevent the flotilla from breaking the blockade that is legal by international law. New techniques were being developed and the Chief of Staff left no doubt the illegal flotilla would be stopped, as had the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara a year ago. In that incident, nine Turkish terrorists were killed when they attacked Israeli naval commandos who legally boarded the vessel after it refused to stop. If there is another major military confrontation with Hamas ruled Gaza, the IDF would immediately unleash a great deal of firepower, even if this took a high price on the other side. The goal would be to shorten the duration of the fighting while taking into account the fifth dimension - international law, humanitarian values as well as access to the media. And he added: 'What the cameras tolerate in the first few days they will not tolerate later on'.

As for the 'border intifadas' on Nakba Day, (what Palestinians call Catastrophe Day for Israel's creation) more attempts to violate Israel's borders could be expected and again the IDF was developing new non- lethal tactics for dispersing mobs. In addition to tear gas and water hoses, the IDF has reportedly developed a bad smelling but non-lethal 'skunk gas'. He said that if the IDF had had such devices if could have prevented the infiltration at Maj Del Champs on the Golan Heights, (the IDF commander had ordered his outnumbered troops to refrain from firing live ammunition at the invading civilians from Syria in order to prevent fatalities). However, IDF intelligence had predicted erroneously that such a breakthrough would be attempted at Kunetra, where most of the Israeli soldiers were deployed. What was 'worrisome' was that the infiltrators had run across a minefield without setting off any of the land mines. In his view, while there had been some IDF mistakes in planning there had not been any negligence. And Gen. Gantz said he wanted to significantly upgrade IDF Intelligence that had to be prepared for a 'potential multi-arena confrontation'.

'They are not human beings!' That was how he described the two Palestinian terrorists who have been apprehended for stabbing to death the five members of the Foegel family at the West Bank settlement of Itamar. Gen. Gantz was immediately asked by an MK if this meant he favored imposing the death penalty on these terrorists, as some have suggested. Gen Gantz replied:' I don't wish to say anymore on the subject'. (Israeli law imposes the death penalty solely for genocide and treason in time of war).

IDF Recruits: The Chief of Staff said all Israeli youth must be eligible for selection by the IDF and he wished to reduce the number of deferrals granted to ultra- orthodox men. Due to many of them refusing to serve near women soldiers, special programs were being developed to enable more of them to do military service and cut the large number of draft dodgers. At present, 2,000 ultra-orthodox men are serving in the IDF, but this is far lower than their percentage of the population. Of all IDF recruits, 12% dropped out before completing their military service and the goal was to reduce this to a single digit.

David Essing

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